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394 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 responses. The novels, then, as sites of instruction, come to serve as social agents doing social work, and our lessons in becoming good subjects necessarily involve lessons in how to act and feel as gendered subjects. In part 2, the focus shifts to the twentieth century. Here the study investigates how contemporary feminist writers 'talk back' to a tradition that has positioned them and their heroines as passive victims. Four contemporary texts provide a useful counterpoint to the earlier novels: two works by Margaret Atwood (Surfacing and The Handmaid's Tale) and two by Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories and Nights at the Circus). The strength of Roberts's study lies in its clarity and elegant design. In its analysis of each fiction, the study makes four interrelated claims: first, that the emotional effect of the novel is 'plotted and enforced'; second, that the emotional exchange is structured as an 'inherently male activity'; third, that these texts position the suffering heroine as a 'token or item of exchange between men'; and finally, that the female protagonist's power rests on her ability to facilitate this type of transaction. On thewhole, the initial sections that outline the theoretical armature are a bit dated and are less satisfying than the more perceptive chapters devoted to close reading. For example, jn chapter 1, while considering the difference between 'identity' and 'identification,' Roberts offers the following definition of 'identity': 'Our identity, simply put, is who we think we are, who we tell ourselves we are or ought to be.' Ignoring recent contributions of postcoloniat poststructuralist, and gender theory that shed light on the complicated and often contradictory discursive construction of identity, this anachronistic definition harks back to Descartes's famous statement, 'I think, therefore I am.' Despite the occasional shakiness of its theoretical underpinnings, the study's refusal to interrogate the psychology of its heroines in favour of viewing the text as a mechanism that promotes 'sympathy' and, in the process, inscribes distinct gender roles remains extremely compelling. Perhaps the greatest testament to the srudy's success is the fact that I found myself constantly applying her theories to other texts. I also kept wishing her close readings were longer and that there were more of them. (MARLENE GOLDMAN) Elspeth Probyn. Outside Belongings Routledge 1996. x, 182. $23.95 Elizabeth Grosz and Elspeth Probyn, editors. Sexy Bodies: The Strange Carnalities ofFeminism Routledge 1995. xvi, 304. $17.95 In a very short time, the academic gender project has settled into a comfortable middle age: the bold revisionism that characterized 1990- exemplified HUMANITIES 395 by Eve Sedgwick's mapping of the epistemological reaches of homosexual panic within heteronormative sexualities, and Judith Butler's demonstration that the ontologies of gender are grounded not in essence but on citational performatives- has moved towards a repletion, and perhaps an exhaustion, of the by now familiar. However, Elspeth Probyn, Elizabeth Grosz, and their contributors go far in refusing the prevailing ennui of the gender-studies contract. Their most energetic work unfolds in the interstices between feminism and queer theory and proceeds to complicate disciplinary boundaries, to dispense with ossified cliches, to approach identification and sexuality as fractious, pleasurable processes rather than monumental'things.' Probyn begins Outside Belongings in Montreal's lesbian spaces, traversing languages and cultures; her writing charts the 'interstitial moments ... where one sees an ongoing inbetweenness,"the transversality of our times' where she discerns the 'longing in belonging on the outside.' Refusing the validity of cultural centre or historical depth, Probyn reconfigures la vie montrealaise as identificatory desires that are invariably marginal, inescapably matters of surface. Most refreshing in Probyn's interrogation is her thorough repudiation of inside/outside dialectics; approaching (be)longing as a 'movement of desiring' rather than a static 'positing ofidentity' enables her to grasp the tyranny of possessive claims that exclusionary identities deploy. For there is only outsideness and its attendant anxieties. Quebec for Probyn is an ironic project in which l'identitaire turns on the exigencies of ontology, the contingent and slippery deployment of the signs of margin and centre: if Quebecois specificity is constructed as peripheral to the Canadian centre, identity is nonetheless 'an...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 394-398
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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